Ha ha: the end of LOL

Hard to tell whether this means text-speak kids are growing up or not but reportedly it’s now rare to see LOL written on Facebook. It’s not that the world is any less laugh-out-loud-able, it’s more that we’re using that archaic but multi-meaning ha.

Facebook’s researchers explain: “The most common are the four-letter hahas and hehes. The six-letter hahaha is also very common, and in general, the haha-ers use longer laughter. The haha-ers are also slightly more open than the hehe-ers to using odd number of letters, and we do see the occasional hahaas and hhhhaaahhhaas. The lol almost always stands by itself, though some rare specimens of lolz and loll were found. A single emoji is used 50 percent of the time, and it’s quite rare to see people use more than five identical consecutive emoji.”

‘Haha’ Has Killed ‘LOL’ Says Facebook – James Vincent, The Verge (10 August 2015)

Read the full piece.

Can’t we just write?

From An Introverted Writer’s Lament:

Despite the fact that the introvert is a romanticized figure, in practice the introvert is reviled and pitied. (And offered pharmaceutical cures for her unfortunate existential defect.) But what if the reticence of the introvert isn’t about stage fright, or isn’t just about stage fright? What about those of us who don’t want to self-narrate all the time? It’s exhausting to always be making and talking, whether in front of people or behind them, synchronously or asynchronously. Now, when every popular technology is just another doorway opening onto the ever unfolding dormitory of life—the one we’re all expected to drift up and down with casual curiosity, looking in on each other for the latest bit of gossip or distraction—not even our desks are our private domain. We’re always just a click away from leaving the workbench for the forum.

The Agony of Community: An Introverted Writer’s Lament on How Social the Books World Has Become – The Atlantic

Read the full piece.

Midweek reminiscence: Netscape turns 20

Well, it turns 20 in the sense that it’s two decades since it started: when did Netscape vanish from our lives? About an hour later. But let’s not dwell. Let Quartz take you back in time to what we used to look at.

Netscape’s graphical interface made the web accessible to everyday people. “This was the gateway to the early web,” says W. Joseph Campbell, an American University professor whose book 1995: The Year the Future Began chronicles Netscape’s rise. “It was a cool company with a great name. Netscape—back in the mid ’90s, it evoked this wide open frontier with all sorts of possibilities.”

Netscape changed the internet—and the world—when it went public 20 years ago – Alice Truong, Quartz (9 August 2015)

It’s amazing how something so ugly sticks in one’s mind this much. Read the full piece.

Take notes on paper instead of laptops

But iPads are okay, right? Right?

This final test clarified that the simple act of verbatim note taking encouraged by laptops could ultimately result in impaired learning. “Although more notes are beneficial, at least to a point, if the notes are taken indiscriminately or by mindlessly transcribing content, as is more likely the case on a laptop than when notes are taken longhand, the benefit disappears,” said Mueller and Oppenheimer.

What You Miss When You Take Notes on Your Laptop – Maggy McGloin, Harvard Business Review (31 July 2015)

Read the full piece for exactly what was tested and the – to me – rather distressing reasons for the conclusions.

The Great Experiment: getting up at 4am

Don’t do it. 

I’ve now got up to work at 5am on weekdays exactly 350 times and yesterday I tried 4am instead. It was brilliant until about 1pm when I struggled, then 4pm when I was underwater. Grabbed thirty minutes nap somewhere around 5pm when I got home and the day was done.

That feels like such a waste: finishing my day by, what, 5:30pm. I know I can argue that I did a lot from 4am to 1pm and that this is officially the length of a working day.

But now this morning I am struggling again, the 5am lurch was harder than ever and I’m somehow feeling it all in my stomach.

I’ll try it again and I’ll have to try it again sometime soon but for now, I think I’ve found my limit. It’s 5am and no earlier. 

How do people manage any earlier?

You must, must, must use outlines

Must you bollocks. Fast Company has a good feature on creative discipline, this business of creating things in the haphazard crazy way we do but simultaneously being focused and actually finishing things. I like a huge amount of the piece but its thing about must, must, must outline is making me twitch.

I do use outlines on certain jobs – I’m contractually required to often enough and there are times when it is definitely a quick route to a goal, just not necessarily the best one. I’m pretty much as addicted to OmniOutliner as I am to its sister app OmniFocus but I use it with care, I use it with wariness. Because exploring on the page, writing something to see where it goes and being willing to throw it away afterwards is still what I believe to be right for me.

See what you think:

Outlines are the tool of fast and productive writers. They help you say what you want to say, before you’ve figured out what it’s going to sound like or you’ve wasted time and energy writing about the wrong things. Outlines help you see if your plot makes sense, if your arguments stand up, or if your blog post is going in the right direction.

Before you start your next writing project, take five minutes to create a writing outline. For example, if you’re writing a blog post, break it into five or six sections and an introduction and a conclusion. Each section should contain three to five bullet points corresponding to a point you want to make. If you’re writing a book, write an outline for each chapter using headings and bullet points. For larger projects, write your outline on index cards. Laying these out on your desk or on a wall will give you a visual overview of your work that you can rearrange.

8 Essential Lessons in Creative Discipline – Bryan Collins, Fast Company (11 June 2015)

I like that he’s clear about what it does, I’m not keen on the certainty behind it. But he has other advice that I’m less precious or prejudiced against, so do read the full piece.

Using alarms to pace out your day

Actually, this is about a lot of things including focus and moving on to new tasks and I was just going to quote you an excerpt but I’d like you to see the whole video. It’s a talk by a designer and illustrator I’ve never heard of before and I can’t say I’m exactly drawn to his work now, but there’s interesting stuff about being creative and productive.

Reading on paper versus reading on screens

I’m a screen kinda guy but even I’ve noticed that there is a difference, most particularly in my comprehension and retention of what I read. I get more from novels printed in paper- or hardback but I’m surprised to say I enjoy reading them more on my iPad. That is a hard thing to admit, feels like I’m going against what I’ve believed all my life. but it’s true.

It just might also be bad.

Of course, there’s no clear-cut answer to the paper vs. screen question—it’s tangled with variables, like what kind of medium we’re talking about (paper, e-book, laptop, iPhone), the type of text (Fifty Shades of Grey or War and Peace), who’s reading and their preference, whether they’re a digital native, and many other factors. But many researchers say that reading onscreen encourages a particular style of reading called “nonlinear” reading—basically, skimming.

In a 2005 study out of San Jose University, Ziming Liu looked at how reading behavior changed over the past decade, and found exactly this pattern. “The screen-based reading behavior is characterized by more time spent on browsing and scanning, keyword spotting, one-time reading, non-linear reading, and reading more selectively,” Liu wrote. In the face of endless information, links, videos, and images demanding our attention, we’ve adapted our reading to fit our screens.

Everything Science Knows about Reading on Screens – (no author listed) Fast Company Design (8 July 2015)

Now here’s an interesting thing: I copied and pasted that quote out of the Fast Company’s Design section and it looked fine there but I felt compelled to break it up into two paragraphs. I just added a return, I wouldn’t alter the quote, but on this screen at this time, it looked like an impenetrable wall of letters. On the original site, it looked fine.

So I’m looking at it on the same screen but the font choice, the layout, the spacing make giant differences. Read the full piece